Released on August 15, 2003, Freddy Vs. Jason was the film we horror fans had all been waiting for. Finally, we would all get to see our childhood fantasies of these horror icons going head to head come true!
I know it was something I wanted for years, as an 80s kid growing up on these two film franchises. As a youngster I watched the originals over and over on VHS, and had even created a goofy comic book story with one of my childhood friends pitting the two monsters against each other.
Originally, development began on “Freddy Vs. Jason” way back in 1987, when both franchises were at the height of their popularity and financial success. When New Line and Paramount couldn’t agree on a storyline, Sean Cunningham (director of the first Friday film) stepped in and reacquired the rights in the hopes of working closer with New Line for the crossover every kid wanted to see!
After Jason Takes Manhattan was released in 1989 the rights reverted to the original producers, who sold them to New Line. Before Cunningham could start working on Freddy vs. Jason, Wes Craven returned to New Line to make New Nightmare. This effectively put Freddy vs. Jason on hold, but allowed Cunningham the chance to bring Jason back into the spotlight with Jason Goes to Hell.
After more than fifteen years of off-and-on development, and approximately $6 million spent in eighteen unused scripts from more than a dozen screenwriters, New Line finally produced Freddy vs. Jason for 2003. One of the biggest hurdles for the film was developing a story that managed to bring the two horror icons together. Potential stories varied widely, from 2 different drafts: 1 was titled “The Millennium Massacre” where Freddy was revealed to at one time be a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake and molested Jason as a child, and another dealt with a cult called the “Fred Heads” who were going to sacrifice a little girl to Freddy, leading to the girl’s older sister putting her dead boyfriend’s heart in Jason’s body to fight Freddy and rescue her younger sister.
Although neither one of those stories got produced, it is fun to speculate what they may have looked like, compared to what we eventually ended up with. I’m sure we are all familiar with the story of how Freddy is trapped in hell because the children of Elm Street have forgotten him. He manipulatively enlists the help of madman Jason by impersonating his dear departed mother, and sends him forth on a murderous rampage in Springwood to strike fear back into the hearts of the teenagers there.
All of this is established quickly in a stylish opening scene, then explained to death by the main characters for the rest of the movie. It is hard to pick on this film for being light on the character work, considering where both franchises came from, but the “marks” in this film really drag the middle half down. The obvious final girl, the sassy black friend, the Jason Mewes wannabe stoner kid, the escaped mental patients, the eager rookie cop, none of them connected with me the way they are supposed to.
Watching it opening night in the theater (and again yesterday to prepare for this post) I had a disinterested feeling all throughout the middle of the film, just wanting them to get to the FIGHT, already.
And, when we finally get there, it definitely has it’s satisfying moments. I love the Looney Toons style wrestling moves Freddy shows off as he toys with Jason at first, all flying elbows, rabbit punches, and elaborate throws. The color washes the director uses throughout the film add that nice dream-like quality all throughout the final epic battle, and the “demon-Freddy” is freaking gorgeous!
The film was the end of an era, being that it was the last appearance of Robert Englund as Freddy and the final Friday before both franchises found themselves on the remake train. Englund is stellar as Freddy here, easily shifting from merry prankster to sinister demon, and bringing life and personality to the character in the way only he could.
He is at the top of his game here, and it is sad that this was his final performance as the “Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs”.
Jason, as played by Ken Kerzinger, drew some criticism from long-time fans who wanted to see Kane Hodder reprise the role. Although the reasons for the choice were varied (and conflicting) from the studio and director, the choice appears to have been made because they “wanted a slower, more deliberate Jason, and less of the aggressive movements that Hodder had used in the previous films.”
Interestingly, regarding Hodder, director Ronnie Yu says he hadn’t any problems about him and even says he likes his work as Jason in the previous films. However, he says it was ultimately New Line’s decision to exclude Hodder, not his. Many of the New Line executives working on the film persist on stating that excluding Hodder was Yu’s idea. These conflicting statements may imply New Line regrets not hiring Hodder.
Overall, Freddy vs. Jason is not a bad film, but not the definitive clash of the titans I had imagined since my misspent youth. The comic book sequels, throwing Ash into the mix, were, however, gory and satisfying and highly recommended!
Well, I hope you all have enjoyed this look back at a decade-old film that effectively was our farewell to these characters that we all grew up on!
Here’s hoping for a new generation of monsters to inspire such fan-fare and adoration as these ruthless killers inspired in our fragile young minds…